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Enriching Memories

Sitting here in Grandfather’s rocking chair on the front porch of this old house, looking west as winter winds blow by, snuggling closer to self of selves as temperatures fall with another blanket of snow, I look back in wintry time to 1984, my final season with CBS News.

“Friday, December 21, 1984…384 years since our forefathers and foremothers arrived in the New World, may I have a fraction of their courage and fortitude.

“Hello, first day of winter!

“I departed Dallas at 3:40 p.m. on Western Airlines. The mountains of north-central New Mexico were snow-covered and spectacular to view from 32,000 feet. Somewhere down there, there must be a nice log on a fire, a loving mate, and a handsome, loyal dog. After landing in Salt Lake City, Christmas lights were beautiful and inspiring.

“Saturday, December 22, 1984…I listened to a radio hourly about 3 a.m. and learned that there are now 13 bodies confirmed in the Wilberg Mine, leaving little doubt in my anxious mind that all 27 trapped miners are dead. Our twin-engine charter was waiting at the airport. Departed Salt Lake City before sunrise heading on a southeasterly course. I don’t ever remember such amazing aerial views. The tall mountains were well covered with snow, and we flew just over and along the rim of the highest peak. Our pilot pointed out Robert Redford’s cabin retreat, and then the sun came out and did its fire dance. I will always remember the absolute grandeur of the mountains—Mt. Olympus and the Wasatch National Forest, Lone Peak, and the Lone Peak Wilderness—yet where was God?

“We made a smooth landing on a little snowy strip outside the community of Huntington. It was zero degrees. It was 8:42 p.m. when the company spokesman made the official announcement: no survivors.

“Sunday, December 23, 1984…I attended the morning briefing at the Emery Coal Company at which it was announced that the mine would be sealed with the bodies of the 27 miners still inside.

“Monday, December 24, 1984…Christmas Eve…We should be grateful every day of our lives, for every breath we breathe, for every sensation, every thought. We should be the embodiment of love.

“We received word from the New York and Los Angeles desks that a Christmas dinner for 12 was being flown in from the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City. We toasted each other and said we hoped there would never be another coal mine disaster, but we knew there would be. We wished each other Merry Christmas and called it a night. I was filled with the spirit of Christmas to a degree I’d not experienced before.

“I am writing this entry in my journal as I look out the window of room 102 at the Quality Inn here in Price, Utah. When we are at home on Plum Lick, I don’t expect to see a shopping center staring me in the face.

“There’s the possibility of a new winter storm moving in, but I will not curse the snow. Weather is the natural state. The wind is God’s breath, the snow is God’s garment, the rain is God’s tears, the sun is God’s smile.

“Perhaps the tragedy that occurred here, that robbed these coal mining communities of 27 lives, has increased the meaning of Christmas—celebration of a birth, but at the same time, knowledge that in birth there is death and in death there is birth.

“My mind is a blur of impressions of the past four days, which have seemed more like 40, yet I would not have missed this experience, because I’ve been challenged by it.”

And now, 24 years later, here we are on the front porch of our home of homes on Plum Lick, where the enrichments continue with the Good Lord’s blessing.

May your holiday season be filled with joy, better understanding, and love for mankind.

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